Garcinia (PROSEA Fruits)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Garcinia L.

Protologue: Sp. Pl.: 443 (1753), Gen. Pl. ed. 5: 202 (1754).
Family: Guttiferae
Chromosome number: x= unknown

Major species and synonyms

  • Garcinia mangostana L. - see separate article.
  • Garcinia xanthochymus Hook.f. ex T. Anderson, Fl. Brit. Ind. 1: 269 (1874). Synonyms: Xanthochymus pictorius Roxb. (1798), G. tinctoria (Choisy) W.F. Wight (1909).
  • For other species with edible fruits see the chapter on Minor edible fruits and nuts.

Vernacular names


  • mangosteen (En).

G. atroviridis :

  • Indonesia, Malaysia: asam gelugor, gelugor
  • Thailand: som khaek, sommawon, sompha-ngun.

G. dulcis :

  • Indonesia, Malaysia: mundu
  • Philippines: baniti (Tagalog), bagalot (Bisaya), buneg (Ilokano)
  • Thailand: maphut.

G. xanthochymus :

  • Malaysia: asam kandis
  • Thailand: mada-luang (Chiang Mai), mada, chakhasa.

Origin and geographic distribution

Garcinia is a large genus mainly occurring in the Old World tropics. A few species bearing edible fruit have been brought into cultivation locally. The true mangosteen, G. mangostana, is only known as a cultivated plant; it is mainly grown in South-East Asia from where it is also believed to originate. G. atroviridis is a native of Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Burma and India (Assam), where it is also cultivated. G. dulcis is a native of the Philippines and Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan). It is also cultivated in other South-East Asian countries and rarely outside the area. G. xanthochymus originates from India and is cultivated and semi-naturalized in other tropical countries, but generally it is very rare. It is often confused with G. dulcis, which it closely resembles.


The fruit of many species - most notably that of the true mangosteen - is edible; the edible part is usually the juicy arillode around the seeds. The best fruits are sweet, the fruit of minor species is often acid. Acid fruits are sometimes used as substitutes for tamarind and to fix dyes.

Usually the wood of Garcinia is hard, but only a few species produce valuable timber. Sometimes the seeds contain an edible oil. The yellow latex of G. hanburyi Hook.f. (Thailand) and G. morella (Gaertner) Desr. (India) is the source of gamboge-paint.

  • G. atroviridis : Full-grown but green fruits are dried, whole or sliced, and used as seasoning or sour relish. Stewed with much sugar the fruit is excellent to eat. Medicinally the fruit and leaves are applied to women after childbirth and a decoction of leaves and roots is used against earache. Dried fruits are used as a fixative for dyes.
  • G. dulcis : The fruits can be eaten fresh but are sour; they also make excellent jam. In Java and Singapore pounded seeds are applied to cure swellings. In Java the bark is used to dye mats.
  • G. xanthochymus : The pleasant acid fruits may be eaten raw or used to prepare jam, curries, vinegar. A sherbet made of the dried fruit is given in bilious conditions. The latex is sometimes used in dyeing.

Production and international trade

Apart from the true mangosteen, the fruit of the species mentioned here is only traded locally. There is some international trade in dried latex for gamboge paint.


  • Dioecious evergreen trees. Trunk straight, tapering to the top of the conical crown. Branches arranged in alternating pairs, arising from the trunk at an acute angle, later becoming horizontal or pendent. In the forest branches are restricted to the upper part of the trunk, remnants of lower branches persist for a long time as woody knobs. White or yellow, thick, sticky latex is present in all parts.
  • Leaves decussate, the successive pairs at maturity in one plane by torsion of the twigs, the petiole with a basal foveola.
  • Flowers axillary, polygamously dioecious, regular, sepals and petals 4-5; male flowers with various numbers of stamens, filaments connate into one central column or into 4-5 bundles, pistil rudimental or lacking; female flowers usually larger than male ones, usually solitary, staminodes with filaments connate into a ring at the base or into 4-5 short bundles; ovary 2-12-celled, style short or absent, stigma peltate, 2-12-lobed or incised, usually papillate.
  • Fruit a berry, 1-12-seeded.
  • Seeds large, usually enveloped in a juicy arillode, embryo a solid mass, representing the hypocotyl, cotyledons absent.

G. atroviridis

  • Tree, up to 20 m tall with drooping twigs and leaves, bark smooth, pale grey, latex colourless.
  • Leaves narrowly oblong, up to 20(-30) cm × 6(-7.5) cm, dark green (bright red when young), glossy, fleshy-leathery, edges upturned, underside with prominent midrib and hardly visible thin, dark, wavy veinlets, petiole up to 2.5 cm long.
  • Male flowers several together on twig ends; female flowers solitary, 4-5 cm wide; sepals 4, thick, green, persistent; petals 4, fleshy, dark red, persistent; stigma red.
  • Fruits globose, 7-10 cm diameter, 12-16-grooved from top to bottom; fruit stalk 3-4 cm long; skin smooth, thin, bright orange-yellow.
  • Seeds 0-several, flattened, up to 1.5 cm long, surrounded by bright orange pulp (arillode).

G. dulcis

  • Tree, up to 13 m tall with short trunk and brown bark, latex white, turning pale brown on exposure, latex in fruits yellow; twigs thick, four-angled, usually finely hairy.
  • Leaves ovate to oblong-elliptic, 10-30 cm × 3.5-14 cm, pale green when young, dark green and shiny above, often hairy on underside; midrib prominent, veinlets numerous, parallel, short; petiole thick, up to 2 cm long.
  • Flowers axillary, yellow-white, with sour smell, 5-merous; male flowers in small clusters, very small, about 6 mm wide, female flowers 12 mm wide, pedicel 1.5-3 cm long, stigma 5-lobed.
  • Fruits globose, 5-8 cm wide, slightly pointed, often rather compressed, crowned by the persistent stigma; skin thin and soft, light yellow.
  • Seeds 1-5, brown, about 2.5 cm long, surrounded by pale yellow pulp.

G. xanthochymus

  • Tree, up to 15 m tall, trunk short and straight, crown dense, pyramidal, bark grey-brown, latex white, sticky, not copious; all parts glabrous; branches and leaves often drooping, twigs angular.
  • Leaves narrowly oblong, 12-24 cm × 4-7 cm, dark green, shiny above, coriaceous, pale green when young; midrib prominent, many short parallel veinlets; petioles 1-2.5 cm long.
  • Flowers axillary, in fascicles of 4-10, about 1 cm in diameter, white; pedicel 2-3.5 cm long; sepals and petals 5; female flowers with 5-lobed stigma.
  • Fruits subglobose, pointed, up to 9 cm diameter, crowned by persistent stigma; skin smooth, pale orange to dark yellow, soft, thin.
  • Seeds 1-5, brown, about 2.5 cm long, surrounded by bright orange-yellow pulp.

Growth and development

Agamospermy (seed apomixis) is common in Garcinia : many species can produce seeds asexually as well as sexually. However, the reproductive biology of the genus is still ill-understood. Flowering of mangosteen is seasonal, usually after pronounced dry weather, often twice a year and about the same time as the durian and rambutan trees flower. Wild species often flower at night and have a characteristic strong odour. Young leaves are often pinkish. The trees are very characteristic with their more or less horizontal branches, opposite leaves and pyramidal form.

G. atroviridis usually bears female flowers only, male flowers being uncommon. G. dulcis flowers in July-August and fruits in October-November in Indonesia.

Other botanical information

The genus Garcinia is important in South-East Asia. Its many species give a characteristic tone to Malesian forests. Unfortunately the genus has not yet been studied well. The total number of species given in the literature ranges between 100 and 400. In South-East Asia about 30 species produce edible fruit, most of them rather sour because they contain citric acid.

G. dulcis and G. xanthochymus are very similar. G. dulcis has larger, wider leaves, hairy twigs and leaf undersides, whereas G. xanthochymus is glabrous with smaller, narrower leaves.


Wild Garcinia species are second-storey forest trees, adapted to shade, mostly in the humid tropics of South-East Asia.


Only G. mangostana is cultivated on a commercial scale; it is not known in a wild state. Of the wild species, some are cultivated in home gardens. Propagation is usually by seed, occasionally by grafting. Besides the three mentioned here, the following species are also grown for their edible fruit in gardens in South-East Asia: G. binucao (Blanco) Choisy, G. cochinchinensis (Lour.) Choisy, G. cowa Roxb., G. hombroniana Pierre, G. multiflora Champ., G. nigrolineata T. Anderson, G. parvifolia Miq., G. planchonii Pierre, G. prainiana King, G. venulosa (Blanco) Choisy and G. vidalii Merr. Most of these species have also been used experimentally as rootstocks for G. mangostana.

Genetic resources

Unspecified Garcinia spp. collections are reported from: Indonesia (CRDB, Bogor), Papua New Guinea (Lowlands Agricultural Experiment Station, Rabaul), the Philippines (IPB, UPLB, Los Baños) Thailand (Plew Horticultural Research Centre, Chantaburi; Faculty of Natural Resources, Prince of Songkla University), and the United States (Subtropical Horticultural Research Unit, USDA, Miami).


South-East Asia is the main gene centre for Garcinia spp.; the prospects can only be assessed after further study of the botany and agronomy of the wild and cultivated species.


  • Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. 3rd edition. Vol. 1. The Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. pp. 351-359.
  • De Guzman, E.D., Umali, R.M. & Sotalbo, E.D., 1986. Guide to Philippine flora and fauna. Vol. 3. Dipterocarps, Non-Dipterocarps. Natural Resources Management Center and University of the Philippines, Manila. pp. 142-144.
  • Kostermans, A.J.G.H., 1980. Clusiaceae (Guttiferae). Garcinia L. In: Dassanayake, N.D. (General Editor): A revised handbook to the flora of Ceylon. Vol. 1. Amerind Publishing Co., New Delhi. pp. 73-89.
  • Mansfeld, R. & Schultze-Motel, J. (Editors), 1986. Verzeichnis landwirtschaftlicher und gärtnerischer Kulturpflanzen (ohne Zierpflanzen). Band 1. Springer Verlag, Berlin. pp. 257-262.
  • Molesworth Allen, B., 1967. Malayan fruits. An introduction to the cultivated species. Donald Moore Press, Singapore. pp. 66-81, 228.
  • Richards, A.J., 1990. Studies in Garcinia, dioecious tropical forest trees: agamospermy. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 103: 233-250.
  • Sastri, B.N. (Editor), 1956. The wealth of India. Raw materials. Vol. 4 (F-G). Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, New Delhi. pp. 99-108.


P.C.M. Jansen